Given the unrestrained growth of management schools and programs across the country, choosing an appropriate b-school might appear to be a daunting task for an aspirant. Yup! I am not exaggerating. It is a matter of fact that management education in India is characterized by pockets of excellence surrounded by ocean of mediocrity. India has got the largest number of B-schools in world. According to AACSB, India tops the chart in terms of volume with a total of 3902 B-schools followed by USA and Philippines which have a total of 1624 and 1259 management institutions respectively. The total number of AICTE approved seats in B-schools has increased by four fold in the last 7-8 years. While, the number of AICTE approved seats in management education were 94,704, in 2006-07, up to 3, 85,008 in 2012-13. According to MeritTrac-MBAUniverse.com 2012 study of employability of MBAs, only 21% of MBAs were employable. A study by MBAUniverse.com and EPSI found that lack of industry relevance has resulted in closure of 500 PGDM schools in last 5 years. MBAs in government run Universities face an acute shortage of applications. 50-75% of seats in most government University MBA programs are lying vacant.
Today we are living in VUCA business environment underpinned by rapid volatility, uncertainty, ambiguity and complexity. This is the new normal as we know today.
How can Indian b-schools stay relevant in today’s context? What skills b-schools should develop or train in students so that they are mindful, agile, adaptive, resilient and sensitive to turbulent business climate that we envisage today? What does it take to teach in the digital world?
The millennial world is filled with gadgets and technology that gives them instant access to information anywhere, any time and in any form. As the opportunity to learn is limitless, unbound by time, form, and space, the challenge for faculty is humongous and multidimensional. Yeah! B-schools should ask themselves this rather unsettling question. How can we transform graduates into a capable workforce? What kind of an approach would be more effective in achieving the learning outcome given the context they are placed today? How can they create a defining, personalized, relevant and engaging learning experience for students?
There are no easy answers and shortcuts and we all know that. The way to go forward is change the rules or alter the game, disrupt before somebody does and be a game changer or a trend setter. Mind you! It is easier said than done.
After a prolonged discussion and thinking, I understood that there is no one size fit all approach. One should adopt a multi-dimensional approach to enable learning.
Firstly, B-schools should shift the focus of management programs from mere conceptual learning to skill development, having faculty members who are practice oriented, and adopting interdisciplinary approach towards teaching management courses. Management institutes should ensure that there is greater collaboration between industry and academia with regard to curriculum design, delivery and research. Yup! It is not new. But many b-schools barring few generally pay lip service and do not invest significantly to strengthen industry–academic partnership.
Secondly, curriculum and delivery should be redesigned in a way where more attention is paid to developing skills, capabilities and techniques that defines the core of today’s management thinking and dynamics. B-schools must prepare aspirants and executives for a broader range of careers demanding varied core and functional skill sets. The whole process of learning should be cyclical where graduates test their learning constantly in new environments, learn, relearn or unlearn along the way to become better managers and leaders in the society. The litmus test for any b-school is whether they are providing ample for space for students to question, discover, explore, experiment, engage and ultimately make a difference to the economy, society and the environment.
Thirdly, to enhance competitiveness of the faculty, b-schools should stop acting as teaching shops and start focusing more on building and strengthening research capabilities among faculty members. Today having a PhD is more of a validation and a passport to senior level jobs in the academic arena. The outcome of many research either lack relevance or rigor or both. Try this ridiculously funny or stupid exercise. Take all the PhD’s reports or publications of faculty members and see how many addresses real business issues or adds new perspective to the existing body of knowledge. Unless management schools create the right eco-system in terms of policies, infrastructure, culture, compensation and performance metrics, the whole idea of doing quality research appears an illusion.
Fourthly, I do not see any differentiation in b-schools today. Except few schools (top) others (especially the mid-tier) looks almost identical to me in many ways be it programs, infrastructure, culture, faculty or pedagogy. Due to immense competition and driven by primal fear of losing admissions and revenue, many b-schools are totally oblivious to building world class institutes. Many forget or lose sight of their raison d’être. I am a firm believer of the law of Karma. You are where you are today due to your past actions. To stay relevant and meaningfully different, b-schools needs to focus on these critical areas. Let’s say 4 Ps. Purpose, Plan, People and Process. If these 4Ps are taken care of the last P (Profitability) will follow suit. Of course it goes without saying that Planet (you can add to the list of Ps if you want) should not be ignored in your pursuit to attain your purpose.
If this sounds too simple and ridiculously naive, then I suggest b-schools to take some inspiration from the three box solution proposed by Vijay Govindarajan, AKA VG. Dr VG is the Coxe Distinguished Professor at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business and the Marvin Bower Fellow at Harvard Business School and is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading experts on strategy and innovation.